For a few hours last week, it seemed like elite Republicans finally had had enough of President Donald Trump and his unruly mob of supporters. After the president’s angry followers stormed the Capitol and sent members of Congress into hiding, a few GOP politicians found the gumption for the first time to firmly disavow Trump’s destruction.
It was a fleeting feeling, however.
The next day, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds made remarks criticizing the Capitol riots, but also boosting Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election results.
“We shouldn’t be afraid of answering those questions, of asking those questions and you know it has to be self-evident … Americans can’t be told: ‘It is.’ They have to believe it,” Reynolds said, as reported by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson.
Iowa Republicans want it both ways: On one hand, they condemn the violence; on the other hand, they continue to lend their waning credibility to baseless election misconduct allegations concocted by Trump and his core allies.
Better late than never, I guess, they are learning a difficult lesson about GOP politics in the age of Trump — die-hard Trumpists demand total loyalty, all the time, on every issue. You can’t defy our dear leader, not even once.
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Iowa’s newly elected Republicans in the U.S. House voted last week to affirm the Electoral College results and Joe Biden’s status as president-elect. In a barrage of Facebook comments and Twitter replies, Republican voters took our first-term lawmakers down a few pegs.
1st District Rep. Ashley Hinson, who says impeaching the president would be too divisive, got this feedback: “I could care less what her words are anymore. She sided with dems and to not listen to blatant fraud. She did not stand by our president when it mattered most. Screw Hinson.”
2nd District Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who still has “serious concerns” about election conduct, got this: “Very disappointed with your decision to not back our President ... This country is racing into socialism if people don’t make a stand today.”
And 4th District Rep. Randy Feenstra, who said rioters were good people who got carried away, heard it this way: “You best support @realDonaldTrump and contest this thing, Iowans are watching.”
I spend a lot of time and column space criticizing the pro-Trump grassroots, but they are not wrong to feel betrayed here. Iowa Republican politicians and party officers spent the entire 2020 campaign season voicing unconditional support for the president.
The voters were tricked into thinking they were supporting one of their own, avowed Trump loyalists who would subvert the Constitution to keep Trump in power. Now, voters see that there are some limits — impotent as they may be — to GOP politicians’ support for the outgoing president.
Turns out, our Republican politicians are just that — politicians. They make calculated decisions to sustain their careers, and sometimes those calculations are wrong. They thought they could exploit the Trump movement for votes and then move on, but we found out last week that those Trump voters plan to hold them accountable.
They made this bed with a linen of lies, and now they have to toss and turn in it.
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